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Welcome everyone to our Neighbourhood Nature School. This is an online learning hub for students from (K - 7) to learn about the environment, gardening and growing food together, our local food systems,  exploring nature through observations and curiosity and  sharing fresh and healthy recipes. Each week, a variety of lessons and activities will be added to this page and to our Instagram page. Students and families can collaboratively learn together while learning at home, exploring their backyard and neighbourhood.  

Become a nature observer by participating in our spring scavenger hunt with your family and virtually with your friends!

Join in at any stage of the hunt, at your own pace.

Draw a picture of any items included in the scavenger hunt using your favourite artist tools (markers, crayons, pastels, paint, watercolour, pencil crayons, or chalk). We'll feature some of your drawings on this space! Email your submission to the School Gardens Program Coordinator at sharlene@spec.bc.ca


Access our weekly lessons ranging from local food systems, science, nature observations, gardening basics, pollinators, insects and plant life cycles. Our content is linked to our Green Thumbs at School: Food Garden Lesson Book 

Week 1: Flower Observation and Bunny Nature Craft 

Week 2 : How Leaves Work and Leaf Detectives 

Week 3 : The Secret Lives of Earthworms and Birding 

Week 4 : Astronomy: Moon Phases and Nature's Colour Wheel 

Week 5 :  Identifying Common Pollinators  and Planting Pollinator-friendly Flowers

Week 6: Plant Life Cycles and Let's Grow Beans 

Week 7: Regrow Veggie Scraps and Vegetable Art 

Week 8: Insect Anatomy and Build a Nature Bug 

Week 9: Insect Life Cycles and Bug Jar 

Monthly Recipes

Kale Chips 

Strawberry Chia Seed Jam 

Week 10: Insects (Part 3) 

LESSON: Beneficial Insects vs. Pests in the Garden 

How do some insects help us in the garden?  What do insects eat?

What insects have you seen in your school garden?

Where can you find insects in the garden? the soil? on leaves? 

In our last and final series on insects, we will explore which insects help us and are good for the garden vs. other insects that are considered pests and damage our favourite vegetables, flowers and fruit.

We'll learn tips on how to identify both the good and bad insects; how to best manage them in the garden without using pesticides. 

What are beneficial 'Good' Insects?

Beneficial or good insects  help our plants stay healthy, strong and reproduce like pollinators (bees, butterflies, hover flies). Some also control the population of garden pests by eating them. These insects include parasitic wasps, yellow jackets, lady beetles (bugs), lacewings, syrphid flies and ground beetles. 

To attract beneficial insects to your garden, add pollinator friendly  flowers such as alyssum , daises/asters, bee balm, calendula, cosmos, sunflowers, saliva, lavender or let plants go to seed by flowering such as chives, basil, dill, parsley, catnip, mint, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, carrot and kale. 

Encourage insects to visit your garden  by planting a variety of plants. Wasps are often seen as insect villians in the garden, however, parasitic wasps and yellow jackets primarily feed their young on a diet on houseflies, caterpillars and other insects. So keep your distance and let them do their work in the garden. 

What are pests 'bad' insects?

Pests cause alot of damage plants in the garden. They can change the way our plant looks, tastes and survives if pests are left in the garden without any intervention. 

Some common garden pests include: aphids, cabbage moth and cabbage loopers, carrot rust fly, earwigs, grasshoppers, flea beetle, wire worms, cut worms, weevils.  

To deter (prevent) pests in the garden, always take some time to check your plants regularly for signs and symptoms of pest damage (two to three times a week). Look closely, is the plant missing leaves, flowers, are their holes, has the colour and texture of the plant changed. Can you see insects feeding on your plants?

GARDEN PEST ALERT: Did you know that slugs and snails are not considered insects.

They belong to the Phylum Mollusca (which includes squid and clams). These gastropods don't like the hot weather, and prefer cool, moist temperatures. These garden PESTS  have quite the appetite! They will destroy a full plant, munching away on lettuces, seedlings and cabbage in the late evening in early spring and or fall, or on really rainy days. Both slugs and snails cause lots of damage. If you find leaves with large holes or a slime trail; a slug or snail was there! 

Centipedes, beetles, garter snakes, toads, and some species of birds all feed on slugs and are their predators.

The easiest way to keep the population of slugs to a minimum in the garden is to physically pick them the plants (wear a pair of garden gloves) and place them in a jar of soapy water. Slugs and snails appear out of their hiding places in the evening/night time as temperatures are cooler and this is their prime time to feast! 

Another natural alternative is called 'slug bait' made from ferric phosphate in the form of pellets. This is  an effective way to reduce slug populations in the garden and is very safe. Sprinkle a few pellets around the garden. The slugs will be naturally attracted to them, eat them and die. 


Every gardener dreads seeing these tiny clusters of pear shaped wingless insects on their plants. These are aphids. Their colours range  from light green to gray, and brown.

They are sap suckers and can reproduce in the 1000s very quickly to many generations. They cluster on tender shoots of plants and suck all the plant juices (the sap) which can distort the  leaves, shoots and flowers which causes a puckered or curled leaves. 

Aphids also produce a sticky substance called honeydew which is excreted from their body and can cause additional fungal problems for the plants such as mold. 

However, other insects, like ants farm/herd aphids for their honeydew because they love the sweet taste. This is not good! They protect the aphids in return for the sweet syrupy treat. 

There are a few ways to remove aphids from the garden.

1.  Always check your garden and take some time to observe for insect pests. If you come across aphids, you can either prune (cut with scissors) the part of the plant where the aphids are located.

2.  Where the aphids are feeding, give them a sharp blast of water with the garden hose to knock off any of these pests. Make sure to do this daily for a week as they reproduce very quickly.

3.  Let insects who are predators of the aphids such as lace wings, lady beetles, aphid midges and wasps have a feast. 

Applying these three methods will help control and minimize the aphid population in your garden and any damage to your plants. 


Lady beetles (bugs) are a member of the beetle family and are some of the most beloved insects in the garden. The adult beetles will survive the winter months under leaf litter or garden debris and lay their eggs in the spring. These eggs can hatch in 3-5 days and the larvae will feed for up to 3 weeks.

The lady beetle's primary diet consists of aphids. They can eat up to 5000 aphids in their life-time. If you find lady beetles in your garden, then you're in luck! Take some time to observe them in action. 


Using the Beneficial vs. Pest Insect cards, head out to a local park, your neighbourhood, or your garden to find, identify and observe these various species in action. Can you correctly recognize which are beneficial species or garden pests?

Beneficial vs. Pest Card Game

Copyright © 2017

Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

Canadian charitable registration number:

118836311 RR0001

Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

2305 West 7th Ave 

Vancouver, BC  V6K 1Y4

T: 604.736.7732

E:  admin(at)spec(dot)bc(dot)ca

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